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Panasonic gives 'life' to its product plan

In a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show, the electronics maker's president reveals the name of his company's strategy for making products better suited to consumers' needs.

LAS VEGAS--The electronics giant gave a name to its plan to make the lives of its consumers easier and introduced new products it hopes will breathe some life into its own hopes for growing revenue.

During a keynote speech Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo said the name of the electronics giant's strategy for making products better suited to consumers' needs will be "Lifestream."

At the same time, Ohtsubo took a shot at PC makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard that are entering the consumer electronics industry, saying the market requires a complete understanding of what consumers wanted.

"We're going to make products people want," Ohtsubo said. "Consumers have powerful ties to their products, and it's about their time and how to maximize it--and about their memories and how best to cherish them...Some of our friends in the PC industry think this is easy."

PC makers are attracted to the growth potential in the consumer electronics industry, which is expected to increase about 5 percent in U.S. revenue to a record $101 billion in 2004, compared with 2003, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

Consumer electronics giant's are bracing for PC makers' entry into their space and are responding with networked and easier-to-use devices.

Panasonic demonstrated broadband powerline networking based on the next-generation HomePlug AV specification, which the HomePlug Powerline Alliance developed.

The network will allow for the transmission of data over electrical wiring within a home and then wirelessly over a network. Panasonic said audio and video data will be able to be transmitted at rates of up to 170 megabits per second--capable of handling high-definition video.

The company demonstrated prototypes of this gear and said products would be available by the end of the year, if the alliance finalizes the specification this summer.

Panasonic also announced that it has been working with leading cable company Comcast to develop a prototype for a television that uses Cable Television Laboratories' OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), which is an interactive digital cable TV standard that essentially negates a television's need for a set-top box.

Panasonic is demonstrating the prototype at CES. The company also worked with Time Warner Cable, Motorola and Concurrent Computer. Panasonic is planning trials of OCAP devices in 2004.

Interactive cable services, including video on demand, electronics program guides and games, are expected to be available on the OCAP-based TVs.